So according to Rabbi Yitzhak Aharon Korff (“Enough with the tikkun olam,” June 7), the use and understandings of terms and concepts in the Jewish tradition cannot evolve, even if that evolution would promote social justice – i.e., tikkun olam, expanded to mean, in Rabbi Ashira Konigsburg’s words, “[w]orking to fix our broken world.”
And, he tells us, such expansion to promote social justice is profoundly un-Jewish. As Rabbi Korff writes: “â€¦the pursuit of virtuous goals and principles which may be applicable to general society and civilization [are] a poor substitute for authentic religious observanceâ€¦ We cannot, and are not instructed to save the world, or even to repair it. Judaism teaches no such thing.”
Rabbi, come now, and let us reason togetherâ€¦
You mean that as long as we faithfully attend Shacharit, Minchah, and Ma’ariv, keep kosher homes, and scrupulously observe the holidays, God alone will address the scourges of poverty and disease? Direct action on our part (as God’s partners) to clothe the naked, support the fallen and heal the sick, (yes, social justice), would be unnecessary – and would not be a profound part of our Torah observance?
It’s sad to read actions for social justice being dismissed as “a poor substitute for authentic religious observance â€¦ petty moral concerns â€¦ pseudo-religion â€¦ social action fetishism â€¦ a vulgar misuse and distortion by assimilationistsâ€¦ [and] a trendy socioeconomic or political [notion].”
You mean that according to our scriptures it’s okay to grind the faces of the poor, ignore the needs of the oppressed, the widow and the orphan, and build our houses without righteousness? You mean it’s not profoundly Jewish to take action when our neighbor is bleeding, to help those in need toward economic self-sufficiency, to seek peace and pursue it?
You say, “[f]or Jews who truly do want to engage in tikkun olam, the only honest and authentic Jewish way to do that is to encourage observance of the Torah across the entire spectrum of the Jewish communityâ€¦the rest is up to G-d – if we do our part, so will G-d.”
And since when are socioeconomic and political notions foreign to Judaism anyway?
One more thing. You quote Steven Plaut as follows: “It would be an exaggeration, but only a small one, to say that nothing in Judaism directs us to the pursuit of social (as opposed to judicial) justice.” But, Rabbi Korff, readers, Professor Plaut, can judicial justice really be separated from social justice?